2010 Employees of the Year
Congratulations to Production Planner Nelly Barnett and Set-Up Machinist Christopher Loomis, The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.’s 2010 Employees of the Year.
These awards are given for leadership in the blindness field to visually impaired employees who display outstanding personal and professional qualities. They will both travel to New Orleans for the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) Annual Training Conference in October. Nelly Barnett will compete as an indirect labor representative for the Milton J. Samuelson Award and Christopher Loomis will compete as a direct labor representative for the Peter J. Salmon Award.
Nelly Barnett, Production Planner
Nelly Barnett was attending junior high school in Peru when she noticed a change in her vision. She was beginning to experience macular degeneration in both eyes. Despite her vision loss, Nelly was first in her class and earned university admission and a full scholarship. As her vision deteriorated, she traveled to Lima to find a doctor. Unsuccessful, Nelly eventually had to give up her scholarship and quit school. She went to work at her father’s car dealership.
“I was pretty lucky,” says Nelly. “My father was a business man, and I went to work with him. I did almost everything in the company and served as his right hand for almost 30 years.”
She moved her family to Seattle to be near her sister and so that her sons could study in the United States. Although she wanted to work, Nelly wasn’t sure where she would find employment as a blind person. She heard from a blind friend about The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. and was hired in 2003. “It was like winning the lottery,” she remembers. “I’d never seen a CCTV. I never knew about ZoomText or JAWS. I discovered all of these wonderful things. I was blind for 30 years without any help.”
Nelly began taking classes through the Computer Training Program. She now works as Production Planner to the Expediter on jobs for The Boeing Company.
Christopher Loomis, Set-Up Machinist
The second youngest of nine siblings, Christopher Loomis was born deaf in Cleveland, OH and began losing his vision over time due to Retinitis Pigmentosa. Although he retained much of his sight into his twenties, his vision loss became noticeable at age 29. He attended St. Rita’s School for the Deaf in Cincinnati until his sophomore year, and after a brief stint in public high school he left before graduating and began his working career. “I worked in several different positions, from roofing to electrical work, until I applied to become a mechanic for a taxi company. I really think I am able to do any kind of work,”* Christopher says.
After leaving the taxi company due to concerns about his vision loss, Chris and his roommate at the time took a road trip to 47 different states across the U.S. to explore the Deaf-Blind programs around the country. “I came [to the Lighthouse] for a tour four years ago. I was so impressed with the program here and how empowered the Deaf-Blind employees were so I applied for a job. They wanted me to start right away – I only had the clothes that I traveled with. I wanted to start right away and have been here ever since.”
Starting on the clicker press, Chris swiftly advanced in the Machine Shop, completing a year’s worth of Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machining training within a single month. He has also brought innovation to the Lighthouse, and was responsible for suggesting to outfit the CNCs in the shop with large monitors so they would be more accessible to people with low vision. “The Lighthouse is great for Deaf-Blind and hearing blind employees. There is a sense of community working with the different departments and programs. It feels terrific to think that I’m making parts for Boeing airplanes!”
*-Christopher’s comments were translated from American Sign Language (ASL) by a certified interpreter